A Phenomenally Biased and Crushingly Uninformed Review of my Favourite Album Ever
By Seth Nicholls
You read the title! Today I’m gonna be gushing about my favourite album ever, the connection I feel to it, and the best tracks from it. I will simultaneously go into too much AND too little depth at the same time, all while desperately trying to maintain your attention. The album I’m discussing today (or whenever you’re reading this) is the 1993 reissue of AK79, an anthology album of punk songs from (mostly) Jafa punk bands that were around the late '70s.
Thus the title:
AK = Auckland
79 = The titular year, woohoo
The album blasts off with Megaton by the Suburban Reptiles, a raging and moshing and marching jam about being free to do what you want. Real party shit. The crashing cymbals and jazzy sax screaming through this four minute track gets the blood pumping fast and doesn’t let down till it’s all over. The Suburban Reptiles are one of my favourite bands on this album, with their vocalist Zero’s unmistakable voice over the blitzing sax, drums and guitar.
The album numbers 25 tracks from 11 bands, meaning everyone gets a little time in the limelight and if you enjoy one sound more than the others, you have several songs to listen to in that field. Among my favourite bands in this anthology are Toy Love, a catchy example of the Dunedin Sound scene which makes for one of the most interesting eras in NZ music, and Proud Scum, who have some of the most vicious and crazy tracks on the list.
Toy Love brings their titular song Toy Love Song (you have no idea how much I hated writing that out), a post-mortem love song ruminating on a beautiful lover after her melancholy passing. They also play Squeeze and Frogs, showing off their aesthetic range with more poppy and experimental pursuits.
Proud Scum, on the other hand, started off with I Am A Rabbit. Y’all, this is one of the most succinctly horny songs I have ever heard. The entire song is the vocalist addressing, and confirming the concerns of his lover, who thinks he’s only in it for the sex. Don’t get me
started on Suicide 2.
Proud? God yes.
This is a clearly a good album if you are already interested in punk, particularly if you haven’t listened to any from the New Zealand scene, but why should you listen to this if you’re just not into it? I believe AK79 is a great album for establishing a greater connection to Auckland proper and appreciating its history. When I listen to AK79 in Albert Park, I think of the crowds that gathered there around those scrappy small-time bands. When I walk past Grafton Bridge with Proud Scum in my headphones, I think about the multiple songs about leaping off it when those safety windows weren’t there. I think about how much that bridge meant, a leap to the death right down the road from Auckland's biggest party location.
I also want to draw attention to AK79’s importance as a historical artefact, as many songs on it would never have been recorded otherwise. Much of this Kiwiana music scene may have been lost to time otherwise. Having this available allows us to connect to the past and to reflect upon it. We can connect by understanding our surroundings, whether we look at Auckland or the whole of New Zealand, in the context that these artists saw. A New Zealand with suicide down the street, a New Zealand before the nuclear ban, a New Zealand that lived and died so long before I was born it seems almost foreign to me. I got listening to AK79
when my father gave it to me, a list of songs that he listened to when he was my age. When I listen to AK79, I get a little glimpse of what life felt like for him.
We can also use AK79, and our glimpse into its culture therein, to reflect and question the culture of that time. For example: though I love the Suburban Reptiles’ music, I could never wear merchandise bearing their name. You see, despite having no fascist affiliations, they attempt to rebelliously co-opt the image of the German SS. Despite this being an attempt to be rebellious and punk, well… yikes. Apparently this kind of thing was done just to piss off their very own boomer equivalent and whoever came before them, but using nazi symbolism for ironic means is still a good 35% yikes from me dawg.
So I recommend you pick up a copy of AK79, or at least give a few songs a listen on Spotify. A 40th Anniversary version was released just last year. I can’t guarantee it would give you more
perspective, I can’t guarantee you’ll learn anything profound, I can’t even guarantee you’ll like the music. I just recommend you take a glance at my favourite album ever.